A French soccer star celebrated a goal Saturday by flashing the so-called quenelle salute popularized by comedian Dieudonne Mbala-Mbala, who has been accused of anti-Semitism.
Nicolas Anelka made the controversial gesture after scoring the first of two goals for his West Bromwich Albion team against West Ham United in England’s Barclays Premier League.
Anelka, a former star for Chelsea who has been photographed with Mbala-Mbala, said he was responding to the French government’s consideration of banning the comedian for stoking hatred.
West Brom said it was not intended as an anti-Semitic act, while Anelka tweeted: “This gesture was a special dedication to my friend Dieudonne,” according to the BBC
French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron criticised Anelka on Twitter. She wrote : “Anelka’s gesture is a shocking provocation, disgusting.”
Named after the word for a pastry, the quenelle has stoked serious controversy in France since first being used by Mbala Mbala in 2005.
Roger Cukierman, head of the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish organizations, described the quenelle as a “Nazi salute in reverse” in a complaint made to French President Francois Hollande.
Mbala-Mbala has countered by threatening to sue prominent Jewish critics.